Windows 8: Time to Upgrade? - Page 2

By Joseph Moran | Posted July 16, 2012

Speedier System Recovery and Recycling

Anyone who’s tried to fix a malfunctioning Windows PC knows that while System Restore can sometimes fix problems by rolling the computer back to an earlier system configuration, often the only surefire way to cure a PC of serious maladies is to start over from scratch with a fresh copy of Windows. But restoring Windows 7 or earlier versions to pristine condition without losing personal data in the process is currently a cumbersome and time-consuming process.

With Windows 8, things are considerably simpler and quicker. Forget spending hours backing up data, finding (or making) operating system and driver discs, going through initial Windows setup and finally restoring data. Instead, Windows 8’s PC Refresh feature will—in slightly less than 10 minutes—automatically reinstall a clean copy of Windows 8 while preserving personal data, key system settings, and Windows 8-compatible apps. For technical reasons, you will still have to install pre-Windows 8 programs after the refresh, but a list of such software is saved for you so you don’t have to compile it.

Windows 8 Start screen


Figure 2: The Windows 8 Start screen is better suited for touchscreens than manipulation by mouse. If you’ve used Windows for year, it will take time to get familiar with the heavily revised user interface.

Windows 8 also includes a related PC Reset feature for cases when you want to return a Windows 8 PC to its out-of-the-box condition without saving any data (when repurposing or disposing of a PC, for example), and it includes an option to ensure that erased data can’t be easily recovered. 

Synchronize PC Settings Online

Windows 8 can give you a consistent experience across multiple PCs thanks to online synchronization. When you log into a Windows 8 PC using a Microsoft Account (which is what a Windows Live ID will soon be called), you can opt to have many of your personal settings—such as default language, desktop theme, browser history and favorites, network and website passwords, and more—synced to the cloud so they’ll be accessible when you log onto other Windows 8 PCs.

Despite all of the reasons to hop aboard on the Windows 8 bandwagon, there’s one major downside that you need to consider as well.

The Metro User Interface Learning Curve

Each new version of Windows has brought a number of changes to the user interface, but they’ve typically been subtle enough that anyone accustomed to an older version of Windows would still be fairly comfortable using the new one.

The Windows 8 heavily reworked Metro UI, on the other hand, is nothing like what your employees are used to. Case in point—Windows 8’s "Start" screen uses large tiles instead of small icons, scrolls horizontally, and runs its specially-designed apps in full-screen mode only.

Although the interface has a lot going for it—tiles can display real-time information, for example—anyone who has used Windows before will likely find learning the ins-and-outs of Metro somewhat daunting (keyboard shortcuts can help). And while a Windows 7-like desktop still exists in Windows 8, it’s relegated to a background role so you still must launch programs (including pre-Windows 8 software) from the Metro-based Start screen.

Plus, the Metro interface was primarily designed with touchscreens in mind (it was first introduced on Windows Phone 7 devices), and although you can use a mouse, doing so can feel quite awkward and imprecise. Even after you get used to it, using a mouse with Metro isn’t nearly as intuitive as swiping, pinching, and tapping by hand, especially for things like scrolling, zooming, and summoning special features from the edges of the screen. To get the most out of Metro, you’ll want to consider (pricey) touch-enabled laptops and desktop displays.

Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!


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